Gen Z

Gen Z may love luxury dupes, but can they really replace the real thing?

On TikTok, the hashtag #dupe boasts almost 4.5 billion views.
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· 4 min read

Expensive Bottega bags, glamorous holidays on a Caribbean island, private jet trips: Gen Z seems to have it all—well, at least on TikTok, which is filled with young users showing off enviable lifestyles.

But how… do they afford it? Well, we don’t know about the jets and the luxury holidays, but we might have a clue as to where a lot of Gen Zers are acquiring their luxurious-looking handbags and accessories: Amazon, or probably a fast fashion brand. Some items favored by Gen Z influencers are very convincing dupes—products that appear to mimic the make and style of coveted luxury items.

  • On TikTok the hashtag #dupe boasts almost 4.5 billion views. There are also independent hashtags for specific brands, like #PradaDupe which has ~17.4 million views.

“TikTok users tend to be really heavy Amazon and Walmart shoppers, and they are much more likely to make purchases through social media,” Claire Tassin, retail and ecommerce analyst at Morning Consult, told Retail Brew, adding that Gen Z on average were “high volume” shoppers. She said 60% of daily TikTok users are likely to make purchases through social media, compared to 36% of the general population.

Per research from Morning Consult Brand Intelligence, Gen Z spent an average of $104.50 per month on apparel, which is higher than any other generation. “They’re…in a life stage where there’s just a lot of pressure to kind of always have the cool next thing, and it’s maybe less about having the most authentic item and more about capturing that kind of aesthetic,” Tassin said.

Roei Ganzarski, CEO of Alitheon and its optical AI solution, FeaturePrint, which is used for authentication and traceability of physical items, pointed to the additional influence of celebrities and influencers whose style many young people want to “mimic.”

“A lot of the younger generation either don’t have the means to buy them, or don’t want to spend so much money on these items,” he told Retail Brew. “So, they found that there’s an alternative, which is to buy something that looks exactly like it and costs a fraction of the item.”

Environmental what? While Gen Z may love a good deal (I mean, who doesn’t?), the generation has also been driving the charge for sustainability by limiting the use of single-use plastic and opting for more seasonal produce, among other things. But when it comes to shopping decisions, it could be a different story.

Tassin said that, per Morning Consult’s survey on sustainability in retail, shoppers across generations were asked how concerned they were about the environmental impact of fast fashion trends. Shockingly, among all generations, Gen Z was found to be the least concerned.

  • According to the survey, Gen Z adults are less concerned (48%) about fast fashion’s environmental impact than Gen Xers (52%) or millennials (56%).
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“Some people might call Gen Z hypocritical in that sense, but I don’t necessarily think that’s the case,” Tassin siad. “They’re more concerned about larger, industry-level production issues…they’re less concerned about their individual behaviors as having an impact.”

What’s a luxury retailer to do about dupes? It seems luxury brands want to keep a safe distance from heavy discounting, but launching their own secondhand luxury platforms or entering into partnerships with them can be a good option for retailers, per Tassin.

“If they are not earning enough money to be able to afford a luxury purchase, it’s hard to capture that consumer and that aspirational behavior,” she said. “A lot of these shoppers would hope that one day they can buy the real thing. [Secondhand items] are still probably going to be a lot more expensive than a dupe, but might bring it closer to reality for many other shoppers.”

Tassin added that brands can also emphasize the higher quality of their own products and their artisanal nature. These factors are “meaningful” for shoppers, she said, and luxury brands can then offer secondhand or cheaper accessories from their own brands as an “alternative path” to accessing some of their products.

“Maybe you can’t buy the handbag, but you could buy the card case or the wallet or the keychain,” she said. “Having options to kind of own that brand iconography in a more accessible format is something we’ve seen brands have success with over the years.”

Retail news that keeps industry pros in the know

Retail Brew delivers the latest retail industry news and insights surrounding marketing, DTC, and e-commerce to keep leaders and decision-makers up to date.